Rikuzentakata, Iwate

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Flag of Rikuzentakata
Location of Rikuzentakata in Iwate Prefecture
Location of Rikuzentakata in Iwate Prefecture
Rikuzentakata is located in Japan
Location in Japan
Coordinates: 39°1′N 141°38′E / 39.017°N 141.633°E / 39.017; 141.633Coordinates: 39°1′N 141°38′E / 39.017°N 141.633°E / 39.017; 141.633
Country Japan
Region Tōhoku
Prefecture Iwate Prefecture
 • Mayor Toba Futoshi
 • Total 232.29 km2 (89.69 sq mi)
Population (2010)
 • Total 23,302
 • Density 100/km2 (300/sq mi)
Time zone Japan Standard Time (UTC+9)
- Tree Cryptomeria
- Flower Camellia
- Bird Common Gull
Address 110 aza Tatenooki, Takatachō, Rikuzentakata-shi, Iwate-ken
Phone number 0192-54-2111
Website Rikuzentakata City

Rikuzentakata (陸前高田市 Rikuzentakata-shi?) is a city located in Iwate Prefecture, Japan. The city was founded on January 1, 1955.

In the quinquennial census of 2010, the city has a population of 23,302 (2005: 24,709)[1] and a population density of 100 persons per km². The total area is 232.29 km². The 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami caused extensive damage to the city.


The city contained Lake Furukawanuma until the 2011 tsunami destroyed it.

Politics and government[edit]

Rikuzentakata City Hall

Rikuzentakata is governed by mayor Toba Futoshi. The city assembly has 20 elected members.



As of 2011, oyster farming produced ¥40 million in annual sales for the city.[2]


There is one railroad line with six stations in Rikuzentakata.

2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami effects[edit]

Rikuzentakata was reported to have been "wiped off the map" by the tsunami following the Tōhoku earthquake.[3] According to the police, every building smaller than three stories high has been completely flooded,[4] with buildings bigger than three stories high being flooded partially, one of the buildings being the city hall, where the water also reached as high as the third floor.[5] The Japan Self-Defense Forces initially reported that between 300 and 400 bodies were found in the town.[6]

Rikuzentakata City Hall after the tsunami

On 14 March, an illustrated BBC report showed a picture of the town, describing it as "almost completely flattened." "It is not clear how many survived."[7] The town's tsunami shelters were designed for a wave of three to four metres in height, but the tsunami of March 2011 created a wave 13 metres high which inundated the designated safe locations.[8] Local officials estimate that 20% to 40% of the town's population is dead. "Rikuzen-Takata effectively no longer exists."[9] Although the town was well prepared for earthquakes and tsunamis and had a 6.5 metre high seawall, it was not enough and more than 80% of 8,000 houses were swept away.[10]

A BBC film dated 20 March reported that the harbour gates of the town failed to shut as the tsunami approached, and that 45 young firemen were swept away while attempting to close them manually. The same film reported that 500 bodies had been recovered in the town, but that 10,000 people were still unaccounted-for out of a population of 26,000.[11] As of 3 April 2011, 1,000 people from the town were confirmed dead with 1,300 still missing.[12] In late May 2011, an Australian reporter interviewed a surviving volunteer firefighter who has said 49 firefighters were killed in Rikuzentakata by the tsunami, among 284 firefighters known to have died along the affected coast, many while closing the doors of the tsunami barriers along the seashore.[13]

Sixty-eight city officials, about one-third of the city's municipal employees, were killed. The town's mayor, Futoshi Toba, was at his post at the city hall and survived, but his wife was killed at their seaside home.[14] The wave severely damaged the artifact and botanical collection at the city's museum and killed the staff of six people.[15]



Takata-Matsubara (高田松原?) is a two-kilometre stretch of shoreline that was lined with approximately seventy thousand pines.[16] In 1927 it was selected as one of the 100 Landscapes of Japan (Shōwa era) and in 1940 it was designated a Place of Scenic Beauty.[17][18] After the 2011 tsunami a single, ten-metre, two hundred year-old tree remained from the forest. Due to coastal erosion this is only five metres from the sea and is at threat from increased salinity. The Association for the Protection of Takata-Matsubara along with the municipal and prefectural governments are taking measures, including the erection of barriers, to protect the surviving pine.[16]

As of September 2011, there were signs that these measures may be failing, despite all good efforts. Salt water is poisoning the roots. The tree is no longer producing resin, and the needles have turned brown. Buds that had appeared earlier have withered, and the pine cones are discolored.[19] It was later revealed to have finally died, and in September 2012 was felled for preservation. It is expected to be replaced in 2013 as a "commemorative tree".[20]


  1. ^ "2010 census". Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications. Retrieved 29 April 2011. 
  2. ^ Matsuyama, Kanoko, and Stuart Biggs, (Bloomberg L.P.), "Tsunami - insult to injury", Japan Times, 30 April 2011, p. 3.
  3. ^ Staff Reporter (12 March 2011) "Wiped off the map: The moment apocalyptic tsunami waves drown a sleepy coast town". www.dailymail.co.uk, Retrieved 12 March 2011
  4. ^ "Honderden doden in Japanse kuststad (Hundreds dead in Japanese coastal town)" (in Dutch). www.rtlnieuws.nl, Retrieved 12 March 2011
  5. ^ Kyodo News, "Deaths, people missing set to top 1,600: Edano", Japan Times, 13 March 2011.
  6. ^ http://www.nst.com.my/nst/articles/Japanarmysays300-400bodiesfoundinRikuzentakata_Report/Article/ Japan army says 300-400 bodies found in Rikuzentakata: Report
  7. ^ http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-12729784 Picture 6 of the series
  8. ^ http://www3.nhk.or.jp/daily/english/28_04.html NHK News Report says March 11th tsunami confirmed up to 13 meters high, 28 March 2011
  9. ^ Tsunami preparation leads citizens into low-lying death traps.http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/asia-pacific/tsunami-preparation-leads-citizens-into-low-lying-death-traps/article1943381/
  10. ^ ShelterBox Response Team operational in Iwate Prefecture News update from charity ShelterBox, 22 March 2011
  11. ^ The floodgate that didn't work to stop the tsunami.http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-12801085
  12. ^ Ito, Shingo (Agence France-Presse/Jiji Press), "Iwate pine that withstood the wage now symbol of hope", Japan Times, 3 April 2011, p. 3.
  13. ^ Video shows terror as killer waves hit, Mark Willacy, ABC News Online, 31 May 2011
  14. ^ Agence France-Presse/Jiji Press, "Mayor perseveres amid his loss", Japan Times, 13 April 2011, p. 3. Toba's two children were at school and survived.
  15. ^ Corkill, Edan, "Tsunami-struck museum starts recovering collection", Japan Times, 8 June 2011, p. 3.
  16. ^ a b Asami, Toru (18 April 2011). "Battle to protect sole surviving pine tree". Daily Yomiuri. Retrieved 5 May 2011. 
  17. ^ "日本八景(昭和2年)の選定内容". Ministry of the Environment. Retrieved 17 March 2011. 
  18. ^ "Database of Nationally-Designated Cultural Properties etc". Agency for Cultural Affairs. Retrieved 5 May 2011. 
  19. ^ YAMANISHI, ATSUSHI (14 September 2011). "Lone pine tree that is symbol of hope in disaster area fights for survival". Asahi Shimbun. Retrieved 21 September 2011. 
  20. ^ "Rikuzentakata's lone pine tree to return as symbol of remembrance of 3/11". Asahi Shimbun. 13 September 2012. Retrieved 22 October 2012. 

External links[edit]